What is Security Orchestration Automation and Response?

December 10, 2020  |  Nick Cavalancia

This blog was written by a third party author.

With the face of cyberthreats in a constant state of flux, it’s nearly impossible for IT and Security teams to manually secure their countless systems, applications, services, and devices, as well as respond to potential and active cyberattacks that manage to flourish despite best efforts. 

Because of the automated nature and sheer magnitude of cyberattacks today, it’s necessary for organizations to utilize toolsets that help to accelerate, simplify, and scale security efforts to strengthen your ability to protect their environment and respond to cyberthreats. One of the most effective ways is through SOAR.

What is SOAR?

The term SOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response) generally refers to three specific software capabilities used in tandem to improve your security posture – threat and vulnerability management, incident response, and security operations automation. The term itself, however, provides better insight into what a SOAR solution should do for your organization:

  • Security Orchestration involves integrating typically disparate security tools and automating their processes to reduce complexity and increase the effectiveness of security operations.
  • Security Automation aims to reduce the human involvement in security tasks by using technology to automatically detect, prioritize, and remediate threats.
  • Security Response refers to the planning, managing, monitoring, and reporting of incident response actions once a threat it detected.

The overarching goal of SOAR is to make security operations far more responsive, decisive, impactful, and cost-effective.


In order to detect threats, SOAR solutions act a bit like a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution – monitoring and gathering data from various systems, platforms, and applications in an effort to identify anomalies that are potentially threatening.  But, SIEM solutions are generally limited to simply alerting Security teams to the existence of the found anomaly and do little to rectify the identified problem.

In contrast, SOAR solutions go well beyond SIEM – first proactively assisting with protecting the environment with security orchestration, then providing an ability to automate security tasks that can be used in response to detected threats, and finally the establishing of workflow automation leveraging those tasks to respond more quickly and accurately than any member of the Security team could manually.

Does this mean you should skip SIEM?  Absolutely not.  SIEM solutions are designed to connect with just about any security data source, whereas SOAR solutions are more focused on the O, the A, and the R. Many SOAR solutions either integrate with SIEM solutions as another valuable source of security detail, making SIEM solutions still a needed part of your security strategy.

The primary benefits of SOAR

SOAR is more than just an opportunity to consolidate solutions and security functions; it’s a shift in the way your organization will proactively prevent attacks, gain insight into threatening actions, and more precisely and quickly respond to threats when they do occur.  Some of the key benefits to your organization include:

  1. Shortened Mean-Time-To-Respond (MTTR) – SOC and SecOps teams can respond to cyberthreats more quickly through automated response actions that can be performed instantly and automatically. The human factor can become a delay, especially in cases where it’s a verified known threat with a defined specific set of actions needed to remediate the attack. SOAR reduces the time to respond through the joint work of its’ functionalities.
  2. Reduced Threat Impact – Through faster detection and response, threats are addressed more quickly, limiting their ability to flourish and stopping them before more harm can be done.
  3. Better Threat Intelligence – SOAR solutions can ingest threat intelligence to remain up-to-date on the latest threats, empowering Security teams to devise appropriate responses to specific threats.
  4. Security Insight (instead of just information) – Because SOAR consolidates a wide range of security detail from disparate sources, built-in reporting and analysis capabilities make it easy for security teams to understand the nature and scope of threats with actionable insight that translate into actionable automated responses.
  5. Streamlined Operations – Whether you use an internal or outsourced Security team, the use of a SOAR solution helps to automate the consolidation of security data, the handling of lower-priority threats via automation, and takes the guesswork out of incident response with planned (and often automated) responses.
  6. Increased performance and productivity – Through SOAR automation, SOC and SecOps teams function more efficiently, allowing them to better prioritize tasks and respond to more issues in the same period of time.
  7. Lowered Cost – The automation factor alone makes it evident that using a SOAR solution will be less expensive than manually performing detection and response. SOAR makes identifying and dealing with threats simple and fast; something effectively impossible if done completely manually.

Will an MDR service include SOAR? 

There is some obvious alignment between SOAR and Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services. Service providers offering MDR that are worth their weight should have SOAR implemented. Think about it – you want the fastest and most accurate detection and response.  It’s only through defined automated workflow responses that address detected threats that an organization relying on a service provider can achieve such detection and responsiveness.  Does that mean an MDR service without SOAR is bad?  Not necessarily, but without automation, I’d question their ability to quickly response and remediate a threat.

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